In a day and age when gamers cry for originality and differentiation, some franchises don’t always come through and tickle the itch for something new. Well, Overcooked gets rid of that itch, hands the keys to a chaotic and fun-filled kitchen, and delivers an experience I’ve never seen before.

Overcooked has no business being as fun as it is and yet, it’s undeniably one of the most fun games that has been released in 2016. I adore this game for many reasons, but perhaps one of the biggest reasons is how Overcooked can take someone who has never touched a video game controller in his or her life and immediately turn them into an addicted, enthralled gamer.

During my time with the game, I spent the vast majority of it playing with friends via the game’s local co-op experience. You can play up to four players locally and that is when this game gets to be just too much fun. A few of my friends’ girlfriends were over to our house recently and they saw we were playing Overcooked. Their initial reaction when they saw it was: “This is stupid.”

We then handed them the controllers and five hours later those two same girls were barking out orders for jobs that needed doing in our kitchen. “Need mushrooms! Tomatoes! Service please!” It was absolutely glorious and something I haven’t EVER seen from a game before. Overcooked is accessible for anyone to try, and for hardcore gamers, it has some deep teeth to it as well.

With how quickly this game took a few people, who didn’t want any part of it, from resentment to adoration, I was truly amazed. It’s true though, the gameplay is addictive and will convince even the most skeptical of doubters. All they need to believe is a controller in their hand and Overcooked on the television.

Overcooked at sea (Courtesy of Team17).
Overcooked at sea (Courtesy of Team17).

Controls in Overcooked are extremely simple, though the gameplay becomes very challenging. The left analog stick is how you move your character, while the “Square” or “X” buttons are for actions like chopping up veggies and meat or washing dishes. The “X” or “A” buttons are there to pick up and set down items, and that is about it. Single-player gamers will use the “L1” or “Left Bumper” buttons to switch back and forth between characters, but those buttons aren’t available when playing with teammates for obvious reasons.

Additionally, the “Circle” or “B” button executes the dash move and this action can be one of the deadliest or effective moves in Overcooked, depending on how you use it. On a level with an icy island, dashing around is probably not the smartest solution because your character doesn’t have as sure of footing as you might like, and if you knock one of your teammates off the surface, they lose whatever they are holding in their hands (completed dishes are gone forever, though the plate comes back eventually). Look before you dash.

In Overcooked, players journey from stage to stage within the structure of a level system, (Level 1-1, Level 1-2, Level 1-3, Level 2-1, etc.) and with each new stage, comes a greater challenge. Challenge in Overcooked comes in the form of how players communicate with each other, and how well they can work together and problem solve.

The goal for each stage is to reach a three star service, and that is determined by the total amount of points you finish with. Points are determined by how quickly you can fulfill orders, and if you are speedy enough, your team can even be rewarded with a tip, which results in bonus points.

On the top left part of your screen are the orders and a bar the goes from green to orange to red, and when the bar has run out that means an order was missed and a penalty of minus points is assessed to the team. While getting a three star service on every stage will be a priority for completionists, you do not need three stars in order to unlock a new level. One star will suffice for moving forward, but really, you should get three stars for all levels (a completionist pushing his completionist agenda on you). I’m judging you if you don’t.

 

Points needed for a three star service do scale based on how many players are in the game, as does the speed for how fast a character can cut vegetables or meat as well. While single-player is certainly doable and fun, and the Versus mode can get heated in a great way, Overcooked is at its best when multiple players are playing together.

You might be wondering what exactly you cook in this game and those items range from something as simple as onion soup or burritos to something more complicated like a pizza or burger. Each of these items have different variations with each order. For example, a simple pizza could be ordered and include dough, tomato sauce, and cheese, while it can get more difficult with something like dough, tomato sauce, cheese, and mushrooms or pepperoni.

In Overcooked, it’s not just the orders that become more difficult because in fact, it’s the levels that add an unpredictable and challenging element to the game. Early levels are fairly simple and straight forward for learning purposes, but by the time you get to the stages in Level 5 and beyond, you will find yourself trying to complete stages in space or in lava pools.

The space around you can momentarily kill your character if you fall in. Some stages feature the aforementioned lava, while others feature freezing cold water. Players have to navigate the various patterns and obstacles within a map, and one of the most commonly found ingredients in later levels is how they change through your allotted four minutes cooking.

Levels sometimes have chunks of land that move back and forth, and players have to then carefully determine when to move and how fast. Other levels have parts that simply disappear and reappear, forcing gamers to learn those patterns as well. Overcooked is masterful in how it forces teammates to think as one, experiment with different approaches, and work together.

A wide shot of one of Overcooked's platform shifting levels (Courtesy of Team17).
A wide shot of one of Overcooked’s platform shifting levels (Courtesy of Team17).

There is a story attached to Overcooked and it’s a cute and fun way to add context to its gameplay, but in the end, gameplay is king here. Gamers can choose to be different looking chefs as their choices range from a normal looking person with red hair to a raccoon or a fox. You can unlock new chefs as you complete levels and progress throughout the game.

I honestly can’t remember having this much fun with video games in a while. It’s gameplay mechanics are simple to grasp, even for the newbiest of newbs. Overcooked does an unbelievable job of satisfying newcomers and hardcore gamers all at the same time.

I challenge all gamers out there to pick up this game and then bring over some friends, who don’t play video games, and put a controller in their hands. Watch how quickly they turn into a gamer right then and there.

Pro Tip: Overcooked is a phenomenal appetizer before eating your actual dinner. I defy anyone to play a level where you have to make burritos, and watch how fast you end up eating Chipotle, Illegal Pete’s or Qdoba for dinner. THIS GAME MAKES YOU HUNGRY FOR FOOD, AND MORE GAMEPLAY. Four or five hours can disappear just like that.

I could go on and on about how amazing, unassuming, and downright fun Overcooked is, but I’ll wrap things up. In a time when divisiveness is all over society and even in gaming, Overcooked does nothing but unify those that play it, and establishes itself as one of the best new games in 2016.

Overcooked will be available on Aug. 3 for PS4, Xbox One and PC for $16.99. Stick around here at We Write Things for more on video games. Team17 provided We Write Things with a PS4 code of Overcooked for the purposes of this review. 

About Steve Ruygrok

Gaming, Spirits, and Craft Beer enthusiast. If you say you don't like beer, then you just haven't had the right type yet. Great spirits keep away the bad ones. Video games are kind of amazing, just do it...or something like that. Contact me at [email protected]

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